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Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

SocietyJuly 20, 2023

Help Me Hera: My partner won’t propose and I’m becoming obsessed by it

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

I feel like a bad feminist for caring so much about my wedding. But I care so much about my wedding. 

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Dearest Hera,

I’ve been dating my partner for five years now and feel like we’re at the wedding bells stage of life (31 and 29). Despite having lots of chats about us both wanting to get married and having a big party with all our friends and family, he doesn’t seem anywhere near proposing. I would say that there’s no rush, but my grandparents are getting old and I would love to have them there. How do I stop obsessing over potential wedding plans and looking at the perfect ring when I’ve had no indication that it’s coming anytime soon?


The staunch feminist who knows weddings are problematic but still wants her white dress moment. 

A line of fluorescent green card suit symbols – hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades

Dear Staunch,

Don’t you hate it when the bell tolls, but it isn’t for thee? Really makes you reconsider the whole proposition that no man is an island :(

Weddings aren’t inherently problematic, unless you make yours Gone with the Wind themed and hold it at a former slave plantation. You could argue the institution of marriage is problematic, but so is almost everything that can be preceded by the words “institution of”. That doesn’t mean we should throw the cake out with the cake water. Beyond funerals and interventions, there are precious few opportunities in this life to gather everyone you love in one room and make them cry.

The idea of having a wedding has always filled me with dread, because a wedding is basically just an emotionally-jacked party, and I can’t throw a party to save my life. I love my friends, but I do not want to devise many small and picturesque salads for them to eat. But there’s nothing I love more than going to other people’s weddings. What’s better than drinking free wine and watching the family and friends of people you love give elaborate and humiliating speeches about them? 

Need. Need. Need. Need. Need.

Anyway, you obviously don’t need to be convinced on the subject. In fact, I feel like you already know the most practical solution to your own problem, it’s just perhaps not the most emotionally satisfying one. 

In a perfect world, you would get exactly what you want, without specifically having to ask, preferably while on a moonlit helicopter ride, or on the edge of a dormant volcano. But it sounds like you’ve been patiently waiting, and nothing has happened.

I’m not surprised you don’t want to ask for a proposal. I imagine being a woman and actively wanting a wedding comes with a whole lot of monogrammed, genuine-leather baggage, and it’s hard to press your partner on the subject of a matrimonial timeline without sounding like you’ve come down with tampon derangement syndrome. It’s like asking for someone to throw you a surprise birthday party, only more embarrassing, because it’s so tied up with traditional fantasies of gender. 

You could start throwing out heavy-handed hints, like throwing every bouquet of flowers you see immediately over your shoulder, or telling your partner you’re thinking of cutting off the fourth finger on your left hand soon, unless he can think of any good reason you shouldn’t. But throwing out hints is a recipe for resentment, because there’s so much room for misunderstanding.

You say you are a staunch feminist, which is obviously not incompatible with getting married. But if the aspirational feminist picture books of the 90s taught us anything, it’s that sometimes in life you have to ask for what you want, even if what you want is to get what you want without having to ask. 

It’s not like you haven’t already laid the groundwork. You both seem to be on the same page about marriage, and it sounds like you’ve already had lots of frank conversations on the subject, which is eminently sensible. But if you’re getting stressed about the relentless passage of time, it’s probably worth revisiting the subject and trying to decide on a more concrete timeline. That doesn’t mean setting a date. You could, for instance, agree to get engaged sometime within the next two years. That’s long enough for the proposal to still come as a surprise. But knowing it’s on the horizon will hopefully relieve your anxiety and let you start idly dreaming of salmon blinis without having to worry about the escalating threat of your grandparent’s mortality.

Asking for what you want doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it. This isn’t Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. It’s possible your boyfriend has changed his mind on the subject, or has an objection to the premise you didn’t know about. But it’s the only strategy I can think of that isn’t going to lead to resentment. You could always cut out the middleman and propose to your boyfriend yourself, but I understand the “proposal” aspect is an important part of the whole ceremony and ritual, like leaving carrots out for Santa’s reindeer. Still, it’s something to consider!

I know sitting down and having a serious conversation about timelines is not the most romantic thing in the world, although you could light a couple of candles and put on Stevie Wonder. But the vast majority of wedding planning isn’t romantic anyway. It’s a feat of administrative excellence, full of spreadsheets and budgets and seating arrangement charts. It’s all ultimately in service to the main event, which is gathering everyone you both love in the same room, and forcing them to dance. 

Have the conversation soon, before your wedding bells start turning into wedding klaxons. 

And save me a slice of cake!

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